Beniko Mason is a strong proponent of simply telling kids stories in the TL. Tina Hargaden, who spends a lot of time talking shop with Beniko these days, in a comment here yesterday, gives us an excellent description of story listening. This is brand new stuff and belongs as a part of, as Russ Albright described, the “Post TPRS” world. I will of course make a new category for Story Listening:
Story Listening as Beniko demonstrated it to me is an enjoyable, painless way to provide CI using pre-written stories and tales. Sounds simple, right? It is. It is strange to me that this feels new…when it is, in reality, as old as humankind.
You basically find an interesting story. I have experimented with traditional legends and tales from Québec, Haïti, and Mexico, as well as with stories the kids wrote in partnerships in class.
Then you tell the story in simple and comprehensible language, using basic good CI teaching skills like going slow, drawing things in the story to illustrate, writing L1 and L2 if needed, sometimes stopping to provide explication in L1. That is it. My kids have really enjoyed the stories they have listened to. Especially my French 2 class, who are sometimes harder to get enthused about cresting together. It is a cozy feeling that reminds me of Story Hour with Mrs. Buford at the Middle Georgia Regional Library. I made some videos of my classes.
13 thoughts on “Story Listening”
I have done this with nearly all of my classes at least once now. They really love it and the ESL kids especially, who don’t benefit as much from “tell me when you don’t understand” because they also don’t get the translations, are very engaged and like following the story as a whole. I just had one student in my class, who smiled the entire story and afterwards excitedly said: “I got it. I understood the story!” She is quiet when we make up stories and this was so exciting to her. It was fantastic to see (introverts! this gets them too!)
Everyone takes from this what they can. They love watching the drawings unfold and are eager to follow.
I also thought that maybe for classes with heritage speakers it might be an option to involve them, in making them the artist (so many teachers have said “I can’t draw”) to illustrate the story as it is told. Or also, they could (if they are comfortable with it) tell a story to the class as well. I don’t have heritage speakers, but thought those would be nice options. Or have them write the story as you tell it.
I had not heard of Story Listening until Agen this summer where Tina sat down for hours with Beniko Mason and saturated herself in the concept. Beniko had largely been under Krashen’s shadow and his somewhat blind support of the TPRS people had kept her (Beniko’s) Story Listening largely under a rock for years. Now that Tina and you, Kathrin, are giving it a run in your classrooms with success, I am happy to know that we are moving the CI movement forward with yet another new idea that helps us break from the traditional TPRS people. The conference in Germany is going to be fun, and offer lots of novel ideas in CI. Vive Erlangen!
I agree with you guys that this is major! Thanks to all of you, especially Tina who is giving so much to our community right now!!!! I can’t wait to learn more and try out Story Listening. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Angie wouldn’t it be funny if Story Listening turned out to be the piece of the puzzle that was lying on the floor under our chairs as we searched for it all these years. I asked Tina, and she sees it as something we wouldn’t do all the time, rather something that we would do to mix up our instructional strategies that would be most welcome by the kids and a definite part of our skill set. Tina has so many ideas on this topic, too many to lay out here. She needs to write a book with Beniko or something about it.
“She needs to write a book with Beniko or something about it.” Yes! and give a workshop next summer with Beniko on storytelling.
I was impressed with Beniko’s super-quick demo of how to provide story listening, along with drawings & a dash of writing words as she speaks, at her talk at Agen, too. Once I saw how those drawings supported comprehension it made sense to me; before that I couldn’t see how anyone could comprehend enough to be satisfied. I helped Judy after the conference & I kept the sheet of paper that Beniko drew on.
There’s soooo much language that’s new to Chinese beginners, but I think by now, after our own stories and building up some language, even my novice class has a strong foundation and could handle something like this. So I am aiming to tell stories related to Chinese New Year in January — just 2 weeks of class in December, so probably won’t do anything then. I’m at a Christian school, so Bible stories would also be great for this. Some Spanish teachers do that, but they have all those cognate words; it’s a simpler process for them than for me. I’m aiming to tell the same story to all classes, getting more detailed/complex as the students have more language.
I think that using MovieTalk with full-length films, Ashley Hastings’ original format, as something rather similar. It’s a whole story, without specific targets. Though some new language arises and in my case, I do work with that in other auditory & reading activities. And — the students need some basic language already for full-length film style MovieTalk to work well. Honestly, I think it’s another overlooked approach. Short video clips aren’t the only thing possible. I know that having a full-length film for MovieTalk is like a huge relief for me, so I suspect a good story would do the same.
I think a perceived problem has been that students listening to stories isn’t personalized. My students do thrive on being able to add their ideas to what we do. (I am having a great year with the students!) Back some time ago, I hear that TPRS really was storytelling, not asking. Was that targeted storytelling? I wasn’t around to know. An idea I wonder about: were people perhaps mostly telling stories in order to hit certain language (targeting-ish), which meant maybe the story wasn’t such a proven classic that it was compelling enough. Am I correct about that? Personalizing increases the interest; a really compelling story also increases the interest. I know that from really good films in MovieTalk that it works well with 8th graders and up.
..were people perhaps mostly telling stories in order to hit certain language [targets]?…
I think yes. At least I saw this tendency alive on the moretprs list in 2000 when I first heard about TPRS. I think the years from 1995 to 2000 were very much influenced by Susan Gross. I don’t know what it looked like in 1995, we do have readers here who may know that, but by 2005 TPRS had taken on a form that depended on targets and it has not changed since.
Thanks. One thing that struck me very early about TPRS, even with targeting, was how much “other” language happened in class naturally & how students were picking that up. That never, ever happened when I followed a textbook!
And by “very early,” I mean my own very early experience.
True, Diane. There is such a wealth of incidental “learning” that takes place in TPRS. This is the power of reading, too. We pick up proper language structure, vocabulary (sight vocab), syntax, and style by focusing on the development of the plot.
When I first started my credential program (2012), I saw a teacher do this day in and day out. He chose 3 targets with the gesture to “Front load” then He went at it with 4 illustrations of the story projected. At the time I did not get it at ALL! He did comp checks in the TL but he kept it really natural and in the TL. Then he would have them read the pre planned story, i think from one of Carol’s books. He would ask for a retell, then I saw a student retell! I was like WOW! but only one student did it. It was more storytelling and not storyasking. Wait — are we back to the basics? Again?
Tina, this was a lot of fun to watch! I was “drawn in” by your drawings on the board and the way you erased strategically. For example, you drew the flower garden, but then erased the flowers and said it was a vegetable garden. The way you did this so calmly and then took your time to draw the vegetables was brilliant. You didn’t write a lot of words on the board. Were most of the words already familiar, or did you rely on your drawings to make it comprehensible? How do you know the students were understanding without asking questions during the story? I feel like I’m afraid to say any words the students don’t know without writing L1 and L2 on the board, but I’m thinking the drawings help to avoid “word clutter”. With story listening, do you also read the story together afterwards? Thank you for sharing!
Also, what are you marking on your clipboard?